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Three Forms Of Defenses To Accomplice Liability

by Jamie Nichols

Accomplice liability is a situation in which you are accused of helping other people to commit a crime. The help can come via different ways such as encouragement, advice, provision of tools for the crime (such a getaway vehicles), and even professional consultation. Here are three forms of defense you can take if you are accused of being an accomplice to a crime:


There are some criminal situations for which the accomplice liability rule does not apply. For example, victims cannot be charged with being accomplices in the crimes that hurt them; this is the case even if they do participate in the criminal acts. Therefore, if (together with other people) you steal money from a business where you are the sole proprietor, then you cannot be charged as an accomplice. Of course, this is only true as long as no other crime was committed aside from the theft.


Another possible defense is withdrawal, which means you had withdrawn from the criminal act before it was undertaken.  Different jurisdictions handle the issue of withdrawal differently. However, in most states, you are judged to have ceased your participation in the act if you:

•    Make a great effort to stop other people from committing the crime, even if you don't succeed

•    Cancel your assistance to your accomplice

•    Inform the police (of the plan) in time for them to stop the criminality

For example, if you had agreed to provide a get-away car for a robbery, then you should denounce your participation and deny the other robbers use of your car. In such a case, you may escape accomplice liability even if they manage to get their hands on another automotive and use it for the robbery.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you may only be let scot-free if you manage to prevent the crime. Such states may still charge you, but give you a lenient sentence if you try, but fail, to prevent the criminal act.

Failure to Accomplish

You can also escape the accomplice charge if you don't take any step towards the accomplishment of the crime. Consider a case where you rant (to your friends) about how a former employer deserves to be robbed because of your unfair dismissal, but do not make any steps to rob him or her. In this case, you cannot be convicted of being an accomplice to the robbery, even if your friends go ahead and commit it.

Criminal defenses aren't straightforward, and you shouldn't expect to handle one on your own and win. You need the help of seasoned criminal lawyers like Alvine & King LLP to prove to the court, for example, that you took the necessary steps to prevent the crime.